The company – which was founded in 2014 by David and Cristina Peters and recently closed a $4.5m financing round* – blends beans and veggies with potatoes in its wares using a proprietary, patent-pending process, and is now available in chains from Sprouts and Whole Foods to Wegmans and H.E.B.
“We’ve been doubling or tripling sales every year since we launched and we’ve built up a strong consumer base of millennial Moms looking for foods that the whole family can enjoy,” said Peters, who would not be drawn on the details of the new launch, but said it would “create a whole new category” in the store under the Farmwise brand. "We're working on two new innovations in the frozen category and one in the shelf-stable aisles, but the frozen will be first."
While Farmwise has been growing steadily, its success has inspired frozen veg category giants with far deeper pockets to enter the space, in the form of broccoli veggie tots from Green Giant (which aren’t quite the same as they don’t contain potatoes), and ‘veggie made’ cauliflower and broccoli fries and tots from Bird’s Eye (which are closer to the Veggie Fries products), he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“The good news is that they are validating what we are doing, and it might bring more people to the category. The challenge is that these brands have a lot of clout with the trade and the consumer, monster budgets and resources and aggressive price points, so we’ve had to allocate more money to account specific marketing and promotional activity to make sure we don’t get lost on the shelf with those guys spending so much money."
Squaring up to Green Giant and Bird's Eye
“But we think our products provide superior nutrition [more fiber, more vitamin C and K]. They have longer ingredients lists and gluten, soy and dairy [the Green Giant Veggie Tots have all three allergens, while the Bird’s Eye products contain gluten] and not as clean a label."
He added: “We also think we beat them on taste and as people start trying all the products in the category, we hope that all roads will lead them to the better-tasting option that we provide. Our texture and taste is quite different.”
Peters has explored developing organic versions of his products, but ultimately decided against it: “It would have priced us completely out of the market and made us a very niche product.”
Asked whether Farmwise had any IP that provided any protection vs competitor moves into its territory, he said: “We’ve got some trademark protection around Veggie Tots, which has forced Green Giant to use the term in a very descriptive way, but we also have a patent pending on our process and some of the product parameters. We’re pretty sure some competitive products are in violation of the patent, but we should hear in the next six months [whether it is approved].”
*The funding round was led by Cleveland Avenue, the venture capital firm founded by former McDonald’s president Don Thompson, with participation from meat products maker Home Market Foods.
Want your kids to eat more veggies? Register for the FoodNavigator-USA FOOD FOR KIDS summit in Chicago this November, where we'll be quizzing Kidfresh founder Matt Cohen on how to incorporate more veggies into foods kids want to eat...